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TECH TIPS
with Mary Lou McNatt

Learn tips and hints to use a variety of electronic and technical equipment to enhance work with volunteers.

Computer Image

~ August 2004 ~ Topics

Preventive Maintenance Can Help Keep Your Program Running Clean

Are you spending more and more time on your computer to run your volunteer program? Our computers have become the hubs around which most of our work is done. Whether it’s tracking volunteer hours, creating procedures, training and recruiting materials or reading and answering the vast amount of emails that now engulf our inboxes, our computers have become a central priority for our programs.

And what are the feelings that rush through you when that central piece of equipment, your computer, fails? You’re in the middle of a project, you’re rushing to meet a deadline or you have just begun to create a new program or process for your program, you are moving along very well, things seem to rolling smoothly, and then you experience the dreaded computer CRASH! I’m sure it has happened to all of us. What we thought would have only taken a short amount of time has now taken us more hours to complete because we have had to spend time getting our machines back into normal working order.

There are some ways we can help to prevent this lost time. It is called preventative maintenance, often abbreviated as PM. PM refers to performing proactive maintenance in order to prevent system problems.

Ask yourself these questions. Do you have problems with your computer? Do you share your computer with others? Do you find that it takes forever to open an application? Does your computer crash when you are performing routine tasks? Then maybe you need to schedule PM on a regular basis for your computer. Even if things seem to be going along well, instituting a regular schedule for PM on your machine can help you to avoid some unforeseen pitfalls.

By performing PM on your computer regularly you can:Tools Image

  • Save Money. By avoiding problems with your computer you save money as compared with having to pay for new components or repair jobs later on.
  • Save Time. You might wonder how taking two hours a month or whatever to perform maintenance can save you time? By performing PM now it can save you time in dealing with much bigger hassles of dealing with system failures and loss of data. Most PM procedures are quite simple compared to troubleshooting and repair procedures--and those can really eat up your time.
  • Safeguard Your Data. For most people, the data on the hard disk is more important than the hardware that houses it. It makes sense then to take the needed steps to protect your data. That is what PM is all about.
  • Improve Performance. Some parts of your system will actually degrade in performance over time, and preventive maintenance will help to improve the speed of your system.

Here is a checklist of tasks you can complete to help keep your computer system running more smoothly.

1. Update your programs. Computers now have systems for registered programs that automatically go out and check for updates. Keep your programs updated. If you don’t have automatic updates, you can go to the software program’s website to look for new components, upgrades, or enhancements specific to your computer. Downloading whatever is recommended will ensure that your system stays completely up-to-date. Be sure to make sure your anti-virus software is updated continually to help eliminate those unwanted attacks to your computer.

2. Empty the Recycle Bin. Remember to periodically empty the Recycle Bin. Most computers have an icon for this file on the desktop screen. Files in the Recycle Bin take up hard drive space.

3. Delete old .zip files. Do you tend to unzip the files but then leave the zipped file on the computer? Where do you usually save your zipped files? A lot of zipped files automatically go to a folder on your computer called ‘download.’ Delete any old zipped files you no longer need.

4. Delete temporary files. You would be surprised to learn how much hard drive space can be used up by *.tmp files. To find these files you can do a search on your computer [Start/Find/Files or Folders]. Find all files named *.tmp on the C: drive. Do a Select All and then delete the *.tmp files. Also, open your Internet Explorer. Click on the menu Tools/Internet Options. Click on the Delete Files button under the section called Temporary Internet files. Be sure to also check the box to ‘Delete all offline content’. These files consist mostly of images that your browser had to download in order to display a webpage you were viewing.

5. Do a disk cleanup. Disk Cleanup helps you free up space on your hard disk by removing files you don't need. It constantly monitors the status of your hard disk, notifies you when your disk is getting full, and provides a list of files you might want to delete. To do a Disk Cleanup go to Start/Programs/ Accessories/ System Tools/ Disk Cleanup … Make sure C: drive is selected and click [OK]. The computer will calculate how much space you will be able to free up. Be patient! This could take some time. Check off all files to delete. Click [OK].

6. Defragment your hard drive. Your computer's hard disk is like a file cabinet. But while you are working, it can get pretty disorganized. Disk Defragmenter reorganizes the files on your hard disk into contiguous blocks, improving the performance of your programs because the files are arranged closer together. This has two advantages. One, your system operates more efficiently. Two, your hard drive will last longer because it will not have to work as hard to access files. If you have the time this is always fun to watch as your machine arranges your data into a cohesive and well organized piece.

To defrag your computer go to Start/Programs/ Accessories/ System Tools/ Disk Defragmenter. Make sure C: drive is selected and click [OK]. This eliminates those ugly spaces on your hard disk and puts your files together in a logical order so that your computer will run faster and better. Defrag monthly even if the system does not recommend it. Never stop a defrag in the middle! The computer might be in the middle of moving a file and it could become corrupt.

Hammer & Computer ImageTo keep your computer running smoothly create a monthly schedule to do PM on your machine. If you use Microsoft Outlook or any other software calendar program you can set a recurring appointment that will remind you each time your regular PM checkup should be performed.

Remember, to keep your computer running smoothly, your hard disk in efficient condition, and your files in good order you can save yourself time and money while protecting your data and improving the performance on your computer. If your computer is clean you can avoid many computer glitches and have more dedicated focus time for your volunteer programs.

Take the time to remember to do a monthly Preventative Maintenance check!


Mary Lou McNatt has many years of experience working with volunteer programs, advancing our profession and has a passion for introducing the advantages of technology to volunteer programs. She was instrumental in obtaining Ivan Scheier’s body of work on volunteerism and putting it online. She can be reached at mlmcnatt@indra.com.

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